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2012 Pritzker Architecture Prize 
Tuesday 28 Feb 2012
 
Ancient tradition given new life 
 
Zhu Chenzhou 
 
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Editorial

Wang Shu of China is awarded the 2012 Pritzker Prize 

Chinese architect Wang Shu, 48 has been awarded the prestigious Pritzker Prize for 2012. His buildings combine traditional and reused materials with innovative shapes. He is the first Chinese citizen to have the honour.

The Pritzker Prize jury believe Wang's work addresses the rapid growth and urbanization challenge China is currently facing - ‘The question of the proper relation of present to past is particularly timely, for the recent process of urbanization in China invites debate as to whether architecture should be anchored in tradition or should look only toward the future. As with any great architecture, Wang Shu´s work is able to transcend that debate, producing an architecture that is timeless, deeply rooted in its context and yet universal.'

Wang graduated from the Nanjing Institute of Technology, China in 1988. Afterwards, Wang showed his interest in China's old buildings when he began to work for the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou. He was able to research architecture and the environment, in relation to the renovation of old buildings.

His first architectural project was a youth centre in Haining, completed in 1990. For the 10 years following this, Wang worked with craftsmen, allowing him to learn the skill of building without having to worry about design. He formed the architectural practice Amateur Architecture Studio in 1997 with his wife and fellow architect Lu Wenyu. It is based in Hangzhou.

Wang's first major project was completed in 2000. The Library of Wenzheng College at Suzhou University was designed to bring attention to the surrounding environment of mountains and water. Sensitive to the environment, Wang designed nearly half of the building underground. It received the first Architecture Arts Award of China in 2004.

One of Wang's most striking works is the Ningbo Historic Museum in Ningbo, China, completed in 2008. The facade of the stone building is constructed entirely from recycled brick found in the local area. The unusual shape reflects the nearby mountains. Wang believes people often have a desire to be close to nature, and aims to recreate it in his work. Through recycling, he resurrects traditional Chinese architecture and brings it into the modern day. Of the museum, the jury state - ‘The History Museum at Ningbo is one of those unique buildings that while striking in photos, is even more moving when experienced. The museum is an urban icon, a well-tuned repository for history and a setting where the visitor comes first. The richness of the spatial experience, both in the exterior and interior is remarkable. This building embodies strength, pragmatism and emotion all in one.'

Wang completed a number of other major works in China during this period, and also contributed to international exhibitions in Venice, Hong Kong, Brussels, Berlin and Paris.  

On his work, jury member Juhani Pallasmaa believes it "exemplifies the capacity of contemporary architecture to become rooted in a local cultural soil and incorporate deep echoes of a specific tradition. His works fuse a rational, functional and tectonic logic with an enriching sense of mystery and myth."

The prize, dubbed the ‘Nobel of architecture', was founded in 1979 by Jay. A. Pritzker and his wife, and honours a living architect every year. A formal ceremony to be held in Beijing will honour Wang this May.

Dami Babalola
Editorial

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